Have you ever considered becoming a game developer but never knew where or how to start?
In this blog, we’ll talk about a few things you might want to know before you get started in the video game industry.
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The video game industry— by the numbers
Many new programmers aspire to land careers in the video game industry. Who wouldn’t want to make triple-A games for a living, right?
In fact, the video game industry has been rising for years now, fueled by more and more players and indie gaming studios. This trend has brought unprecedented growth year after year, both in the number of users and in the quality of games.
It’s no wonder that many new developers—many of whom were gamers themselves at some point—try to get into the game industry.
Things to consider before deciding on a career as a game developer
Before finalizing a career choice in game development, there are a few things you have to consider first. Most people miss one key thing—playing games is an entirely different arena from creating one.
A career in game development involves investing a lot of time in practicing and learning (months and years even) and then more hours of actual work and debugging.
Game development is like producing an indie film. The goal is relatively simple to visualize, but as soon as you start doing it, you find that there are a lot of hidden elements and complexities like finding actors, sourcing equipment, or writing a script, among other things.
However, if you can look past the apparent startup hurdles (which are present in any career or hobby), then you can start practicing your skills and be on your way to becoming a full-time game developer.
Here are a few other questions to ask before deciding on a career in game development:
- What programming languages will you use?
- Are you more of a game artist or a game programmer?
- How much time and resources are you willing to invest in learning?
- Are you doing this as a recreational hobby or to build your resume?
Tip #1: Start with simple projects
One of the best ways to start is by getting some hands-on experience by completing a project from start to finish. You can start with something simple, like a game of Pong or a side scroller using the language of your choice.
But don’t let the “beginner” tag fool you!
You will find that even the most simple of games require a lot of time and effort to create. However, creating a game from scratch will serve as a great introduction to the hidden complexities of game development, such as:
- Creating objects
- Programming player input and controls
- Adding simple AI for NPCs
- Object physics
- Game conditions and objectives
- Game UI and menus
You can also find completed projects from other developers to use as a benchmark for your own projects. For example, this Pong source code is available on GitHub and is open for the whole community to examine, copy, modify, experiment with, and more.
There are also tutorials on YouTube if you prefer videos. Full-fledged courses, both paid and free, are also available on popular providers such as Coursera or Udemy. You just have to look for the one that fits your learning style the best.
When you finish your first game, remember that it doesn’t have to be super polished or bug-free. The important thing here is to experience game development and all things related.
Tip #2: Build upon pre existing resources with game engines
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can try a different approach by using game engines like Unity or Unreal Engine.
The main advantage of using game engines is access to pre programmed templates and assets. In fact, many new developers go this route so they can focus on game design and avoid many of the technical (and often tedious) details for later.
For example, something basic like drawing text using Direct X code is several degrees more complex than using a built-in GUI in Unity or Unreal. These instances tend to frustrate beginners and steer them away from ever finishing their first game.
Another advantage of using these big game engines will give you access to a very active community of other developers as well as some very useful documentation.
For instance, you can head over to Unreal Engine’s starter projects for a list of “simplified gaming experiences,” which allow you to try a design approach for a specific game type.
Tip #3: Maximize the tools you are using
This may seem obvious, but you need to familiarize yourself with the tools you are using. Whether you are focusing on graphic design with game engines or coding complicated game mechanics, a certain level of mastery will greatly improve your workflow.
If you are coding in C++, we recommend using a dedicated coding environment IDE like Visual Studio as it’s free and natively supports the language.
Then when at some point you feel that the coding environment you are using is limiting you, it may be prudent to install productivity plugins like Visual Assist. This will greatly help with navigating, managing, and writing huge code projects (which is almost always the case with game development projects). It also has dedicated features and support for Unreal Engine.
Here’s a quick recap on how you can get started with your game development career.
- Understand that playing games is different from programming them
- Determine how much time and effort you can allocate to learning
- Start with simple projects to build experience
- Utilize all the resources available
- Maximize your efficiency with the right tools
Always remember that there is no clear-cut path to becoming a game developer. There are people who start as solo hobbyists, while some were recruited due to their experience in similar fields. But what you can do is pick a project you like, and keep practicing until you reach your goal!
Bonus tip: Watch how other game developers work
Trying to understand how to program games through a blog article can take you only so far. Try to find more experienced developers and see how to integrate some of their best practices and habits into your workflow.
And as an alternative, you can register for Whole Tomato’s webinar on ways to improve game development experience. This short webinar will showcase how to do simple projects in Unreal Engine.